Boston College's football team held its second scrimmage of training camp Saturday, and all eyes were on the two players vying for the team's starting quarterback spot.
Both graduate student Darius Wade and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown worked with the first team Saturday morning, with each showing flashes of why they might be the best candidate to lead the Eagles.
Wade looked smooth operating under center, and showed impressive footwork and ball handling while executing play action passes. A dart of a completion from Wade to Jeff Smith off a play fake, along with a touchdown to tight end Tommy Sweeney, were some of the day’s early highlights, and Wade's comfort with play fakes would be a theme of the morning.
Conversely, Brown showed greater comfort in the shotgun, and in pushing the ball downfield. The redshirt frosh dropped an absolute dime, for about 55 yards, to this summer's breakout receiver star, fellow redshirt freshman Kobay White. Those two seem to be developing some chemistry, as Brown looked White's way multiple times during the first half of the scrimmage, and found him again on a 15 yard dig route.
After the scrimmage, head coach Steve Addazio explained that he was in no hurry to name a starter, and that he has been pleased with each player's progression thus far.
"There were some mistakes made today," Addazio said of both his quarterbacks, after mentioning that they each had largely positive days. "I want to see who is going to continue to elevate their play (the rest of camp).
"I don't feel a sense of urgency in terms of (picking one quarterback), just because they're both playing at a pretty high level. That's not a bad thing, that's a good thing. Let's keep that going. The more you do that, the more development there is, because there's push, there's competition."
As coach said, it wasn't all positive, as both passers actually finished their days on somewhat lower notes. Wade missed a wide open Jon Hilliman in the flat off a nice play fake, while Brown over threw a pair of crossing routes on his final drive. On the day, Wade received a bit more work with the first team, but each made their share of plays. Addazio is right that there's no reason to make a decision now, and if Saturday is any indication, this truly could come down to the wire.
But, just based on comfort, and the amount of snaps taken with the first team, call Wade the slight leader, for the moment.
Kicking Battle/New Kickoff Specialist?
The battle for BC's starting kicker spot is now in full swing, with both junior Colton Lichtenberg (4/4, long of 42) and Mike Knoll (2/2, long of 37) having solid mornings. But things weren't quite as rosy as the stats suggest, as Lichtenberg's first kick was a knuckleball that barely snuck in, and he did miss an extra point later in the day. Still, the three kicks in between were solid for the junior, who has shown a short memory and some mental toughness throughout camp.
Another kicker to keep an eye on will be senior Maximilian Schulze-Geisthovel. A former BC soccer player who just joined the football team, Schulze-Geisthovel showed a big leg on kickoffs, pushing the ball into the end zone on multiple occasions. Elsewhere on special teams, junior Taj-Amir Torres showed good quickness and excellent vision on kick returns, and the Amherst native also made his presence known in the defensive backfield, jumping an out route at the last second to knock away a sure completion.
Pass Rush Diversifying
Defensively, BC had to love the day it got from its complementary pass rushers and linebackers. Both Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray came away with sacks, and late in the scrimmage, when the sun was starting to weigh on the offensive line, both turned up the heat on BC's top two quarterbacks.
Ray, in particular, had a big day, bringing pressure both from the edge, and from the interior when he lined up at defensive tackle. Addazio mentioned that the Eagles still have some question marks on the interior of their defensive line. Perhaps Ray can find a permanent home there, giving BC one of the fastest defensive fronts around.
O-Line Coming Along
That said, the offensive line did have a big day run blocking. Early on in the day, a Jon Baker block sprung freshman A.J. Dillon into the secondary, where he cut back and broke a tackle for a gain of nearly 40. On the next drive, Dillon again broke free and trucked a reserve DB near the sideline.
But the D would get its revenge, as senior linebacker Connor Strachan de-cleated the frosh with a vicious hit while Dillon was dancing around in the backfield. It was a "welcome to college football" moment for sure, but Dillon stayed in the scrimmage and continued to take, and dish out, punishment.
If you're looking for stability on the offensive line, you may need to wait a week or two. While Baker is a fixture at center, much of the rest of the line is in flux, and that is primarily due to the versatility of junior Chris Lindstrom, who moved back and forth between right guard and right tackle. Grad student Marcel Lazard did get extensive work at right tackle when Lindstrom was inside, and Aaron Monteiro seems locked in as a starter at left tackle.
Tempo and a Crowded Backfield
Oh yeah, and there was plenty of that tempo we were promised.
While most fans tend to think of up-tempo offenses featuring spread formations and a ton of passes, BC may utilize the exact opposite as, on one trip inside the 20, the Eagles went no-huddle out of the Power I, pounding the rock until, finally, Richard Wilson muscled his way in for a two-yard score, his second touchdown of the day.
Speaking of running backs, Jon Hilliman showed a burst that he didn't really have last year, finding the end zone on a toss left, where he beat multiple defenders to the corner. Davon Jones also showed his usual toughness between the tackles, but spent much of his day running with the second team.
Perry Has Potential
Finally, it was an up and down day for one of the team's younger quarterbacks. Freshman E.J. Perry showed off some tremendous athleticism on one play action bootleg. Still, the former Andover star also made some throws that would work in the MIAA, but not in major college football, nearly giving away a pick-six on a late out route.
To his credit, Perry bounced back from that poor decision to hit Joe Vitiello for a score later in the day. The learning curve is steep coming from high school to the ACC, but Perry definitely has the physical tools, and in that snapshot, showed the mental toughness to be a starting quarterback someday down the road.
Coach Addazio has been pleased with the improvement of his offensive line and secondary throughout camp, but says his team still needs to develop some depth in both trenches, pointing specifically to the interior of the defensive line.
The Eagles will also look to solidify their starting linebacker group, and find the best spot for Strachan, who has moved back and forth from inside to outside ‘backer. And, of course, they do have to choose a starting quarterback and kicker in the coming weeks.